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Lost But Not Forgotten - Art Keeps Turning Up

Art is one type of stolen property that keeps turning up – often long after the original crime.  It is still recoverable if we put in place the tools necessary to locate and identify these pieces when they eventually surface.

  • During the 1940s, actress Lana Turner commissioned Peter Fairchild to paint a full-length portrait of herself in Los Angeles.  The painting disappeared from her home just as the artist was finishing it.  Fifty years later, the painting suddenly surfaced in the possession of a woman who had purchased it 25 years earlier.
  • A woman, shopping in Beverly Hills, glanced into the window of a store.  She was dumbfounded to see on display a gray cloth embroidery that was a family heirloom, hand made by a long deceased grandmother in 1909.  The embroidery contained her family tree with the names and birth dates of family members.  It was stolen during the burglary of an aunt’s house in New York 35 years earlier.
  • A full-length portrait of actress Delores del Rio by Theodore Lukits was stolen from the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.  Thirty years later the artwork surfaced when a bona fide purchaser in possession of the painting died and the painting was subsequently sold.
  • Two rare Navajo blankets from the William Randolph Hearst Collection were stolen from a museum in Los Angeles.  Twenty-eight years later, a museum curator in Denver who helped document the original collection spotted the two blankets at an exhibition in St. Louis.
  • A unique collection of pre-Columbian and African art was stolen during the burglary of a home in West Los Angeles.  Twenty-five years later, the Art Loss Register spotted one of the artworks for auction at Sotheby’s in New York.  By following the paper trail, detectives recovered nine additional artworks taken during the burglary.
  • A George Inness painting was stolen during the burglary of a home in Los Angeles.  Nine years later, the victim checked art auction records on an internet website and learned the painting was sold at auction through Sotheby’s in New York.  This information led to the recovery of the painting.
  • A rare El Lissitzky photogram worth $200,000 was reported stolen in Santa Monica.  Five years later, it was found in a small storage closet of a hotel in Oakland where it had remained unclaimed for years.
  • A man walked into Sotheby’s in New York to consign five paintings for auction.  The five were subsequently connected to a string of residential burglaries that occurred throughout West Los Angeles six years prior.
  • Original oil paintings by Monet and Picasso, valued at over $13 million, were reported stolen from a home in Los Angeles.  They were subsequently found in a storage unit in Cleveland five years later.
  • An artist assembled his best paintings for an art exhibition in downtown L.A.  After the exhibition, the art was stolen after it was loaded into a van for transportation.  Six years later, part of the collection was recovered after a buyer purchased the art at a swap meet in Pasadena.